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tv   Washington Week  WETA  September 24, 2010 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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all tonight on "washington week." >> quite frankly i'm exhausted. i'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration. and the mantle of change that i voted for. >> times are tough for everybody right now. so i understand your frustration. gwen: weeks before voters go to the polls in the mid-term elections, republicans want to take advantage of that frustration. >> the american people are speaking out like never before. they're concerned about the future of our nation. and the future for their children. gwen: but who are the people listening to? and how many distractions can one white house handle? including at the u.n. >> some sectors of the u.s. government orchestrated the attack to reversion the declining american -- reverse the declining american economy. gwen: on the senate floor. >> the appeal of don't ask-don't tell is an appeal to the gay and lesbian base.
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gwen: finger pointing on parade. covering the week, jackie calmes of "the new york times." naftali bendavid of "the wall street journal." tom gjelten of n.p.r. and nancy youssef of mcclatchy newspapers. >> award winning reporting and analysis covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill." produced in association with national journal. funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. >> to connect our forces to what they need, when they need it. >> to help troops see danger. before it sees them. >> to answer the call of the brave and bring them safely home. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to support and protect all who serve. >> that's why we're here.
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>> funding for "washington week" is also provided by exxonmobil, e-harmony, the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation, the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. economic advisor larry summers became the latest member of the president's inner circle to head for the exits this week with the recent departures of christina romer and peter orszad and the imminent decampment of chief of staff rahm emmanuel and david axelrod, a chief is under way at the white house. bill clinton is among those who believe the president still has to assert control over his biggest challenge, the economy.
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the former president sat down with my news however colleague judy woodruff this week. >> if this is a referendum on people's anger and apathy, our side stays home and their side, we don't do well f it's a choice between who's going to do what, we can do well. the president is out there now. and i think it's high time. and it's good, and it's good that he's taking some shots. that's what people want to see. they like to see their presidents get hit a little bit. gwen: and he would know. and does the white house subscribe, jackie, to this clinton principle that sometimes you got to take your hits? >> well, they would never admit that they subscribe to anything that's described as clinton's. but of course, the danger in that is you get hit, you look -- depending on your reaction, you could look prickly or defensive. and occasionally, this president does that. of course, bill clinton did that occasionally, too. but the opportunity, and you saw little of this in the president obama's performance monday in the town hall that
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cnbc sponsored. you can look like you're more empathetic and you're more human as opposed to being bloodless and prove southerly as the -- professororial as the president is often accused of being. saw in that instance there was a remark made that the national bureau of economic research has decided that this recession ended over a year ago. and in the summer of 2009. but the president there, and he could not then nor can he now take credit for that or gloat over it when there's 9.56% unemployment. gwen: because no one feels like it's true. why did larry summers leave? or is he leaving? i guess he's not quite gone yet. >> he'll there be through the end of the year. this was expected. that sometime, maybe after the election, there was a sense -- get this news out now. because if the democrats as expected suffer some big losses on election day, and people think it's time for the --
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raise the question, is he going to stack his economic team, you look at who -- the principals left there, summers and tim geithner, the fresh secretary. neither larry summers nor people close to him wanted him to be in that position. so the news sort of leaked out this week that he was going. >> is the new team that the president is putting in place, how is it going to be different or is it going to be different from what went before? >> the first thing that strikes me is the continuity. so we've already seen two people lve. peter orszag, the budget director, left in late summer and he's been replaced by jack lu who was budget director to bill clinton at a time when surpluses were building. and he was brought over from the state department where he had been hillary clinton's -- and still is until he gets confirmed by the senate -- deputy secretary of state. and then christie roemer of the chair of economic advisors, she left at the beginning of this
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month to go back to berkeley. and she's been replaced by austin goolsby who was one of the members of the council of economic advisors. so it's very much he's brought people from within his team. and brought them in. so it's not big change. he hasn't reached outside. there is one difference, though, in that you could say he had a team of wonks. these four principals. and both jack lu, for budget director, and austin goolsby, are more political veterans. and in will be important -- and this will be important because this will coincide with the president's re-election campaign. >> there were some pretty vigorous policy debates and even disagreements in this administration between some of those figures, peter orszag, christina romer and larry summers. do we have any sense of what we -- what remains unresolved in terms of policy changes, economic policy changes that are going to be facing, decisions that are going to have to be made now? >> they've been balancing from nearly the start of this
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administration. after they got out the big stimulus package, and the first 28 days of the administration, over time, and because things worked so slowly, that people still to this day think it was a failure, that the public has increasingly not wanted to support a lot of it. and with republicans voting in block anything that's additional stimulus. in the administration you had debates over thousand balance this, whether the economy -- over how to balance this, whether the economy needs stimulus, how much, and the need to look like in the medium term and down the line, you are aware that you have to start bringing down deficits. >> how would you rank or rate the administration on its economic policy? can you give it a rating this soon? or is it too early to say? >> it's too early to say when unemployment remains stuck at 9.5%. most people think that -- most economists who aren't partisan
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think we will avoid a double dip recession. but -- and that the stimulus did work. but maybe should have been more of it or better designed. and one thing that -- as we're going into this election, one of the least popular things they've done is -- which was actually started in the bush administration, was the tarp, the troubled asset relief program. that actually officially ends in the coming months. and by all accounts, except partisan, it's been pretty successful. gwen: let's talk about those partisans because everybody doesn't think it's been successful and knows are the republicans. who know full well that they are not terribly more popular than democrats right now. so they unveiled their own economic plans. something like 1994, contract for america, except it's not a contract. it's a pledge to america. get that right. lawmakers left their suits and ties in the closet and abandoned the capital steps where they appeared 16 years ago for a small virginia lumme
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br business instead. -- lumme br business instead. but the biggest difference is their target audience, other republicans. >> our pledge as you've heard from everybody did not originate behind closed doors in washington, d.c. it originated with the american people. who have spoken out against the tyranny they feel and we feel of excessive, unchecked, unaccountable government. gwen: so naftali, what is this pledge that they are making exactly? >> well, what it is is kind of a good question. because if you read it, it reads very much like a campaign manifesto or a campaign platform. but they insist it's not. they call it a governing agenda that could be implemented right now. and i think they're a little nervous about calling something their platform and putting it out there. it becomes a target. so it's a document that's carefully crafted and has old ideas in it and a few things that are targeted very much to reach tea party activists and the things they're talking about. and something they can put in front of the american people and say we get it. here's what we're about. gwen: we get it.
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it seems that's one of those things that if you say it, then you're already in trouble. so what is it that they are saying that they get, that they believe the american public is asking them for? >> i think they have a sense like a lot of people do that there's a certain amount of outrage a. certain amount of anxiety and distress in the american public and also a certain amount of anger, particularly at washington and the politicians. the tea party as you alluded to doesn't have great love necessarily for republicans. they're angry at democrats right now but it's an open question whether republicans can kind of ride this wave. as this is their way of saying, we feel what you feel. we understand what you're saying. i mean, john boehner said we get it because that was a big part of the message they were trying to convey. >> the big theme in the tea party is the deficit. how do you assess this document? ok. no repeal of the tax cuts. entitlement spending stays the same. and no reduction in spending on national security. how does that add up to an
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impact on the deficit? >> and also not a balanced budget amendment in there which a lot of people on the right had wanted to see. the reaction was mixed, even among the target audience, which is conservative activists. and one of the big criticisms was as you suggest, that it doesn't do enough to cut the deficit. it talks a lot about the deficit. it talks a lot about cutting spending. and you have things like a freeze in federal hiring and so forth. but it also -- they want to spend more money on missile defense. they want to continue the tax cuts. they don't really say what they would do about social security and medicare. so a lot of people took a look at it and say you talk a lot about spending and deficit cutting but where is it? >> how many of thee changes or proposals in the pledge could actually end up becoming laws? >> as some people remember, in 1994, when there was the contract with america, the majority of those things never did take effect. and it's not because the house couldn't pass them. the house passed them fairly easily. but most of them died in the senate. and even if the republicans take the house, in november, the senate may remain democratic. certainly the white house will
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remain democratic. and it's not clear that all-runs favor everything that's in here, either. -- all republicans favor everything that's in here, either. like many party platforms, there's a certain question, a doubtfulness about whether or not any of it will actually become law. >> i was covering congress in 1995 when the gingrich revolution took power. and the senate was republican -- gwen: and you look so young. >> thank you. gwen: it didn't age you at all. >> i did age that year. so where were we? >> 1995. >> senate republicans never were onboard with that. and it showed once they tried to enact this. why weren't the -- was there any effort to bring the senate republicans onboard at the time? >> i talked to some of them. they said we consulted with them. we knew what they were doing. we support what they're doing but didn't see the senate republicans out there. it was notable. this was a house republican document. and i think it's the same reason right now that it was
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back then. people in the senate tend to be a little less partisan and a little harder to get on one single page. they tend to go their own way. there's a little bit more moderation. and there's a little bit less willingness to toe the party line. i don't think it's an accident. we saw the contract with america in 1994. we saw the democrats had something called six for 2006 in 2006 and the pledge to america but you never see the senators getting onboard with these things because they tend to be much more lone operators. gwen: in the end how much of an idea like this is about uniting republicans? a lot of tea party folks feel it's a pox on everybody's house and not necessarily in love with the republicans, either. how much is it about uniting them and getting them in the fold and how much of it is stopping or signaling they will stop anything that the president is for? >> well, there was a lot of -- there was a lot of that in there. they wanted -- they said that they want to repeal the health care plan. they say they want to repeal tarp. they want to stop a lot of things that are on president
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obama's agenda. they said that before. but this was a way of bringing it all together. but in my opinion, it was less about bringing all republicans on to a single page. and then sending a message to those tea party folks. we hear you. we see that you have a lot of energy. you're able to pick candidates in primaries. we're not like the democrats. we're on your side. we hear what you're saying. that's what they tried to say over and over and over again at this event yesterday. gwen: we do nothing better in washington than send messages. sometimes they get received and sometimes not. but try as you might, the president can't spend every waking moment on the economy. especially when world leaders like mahmoud ahmadinejad are in new york stirring up trouble. or when there's a chance to make another pitch for the middle east peace process. but what a difference a year makes since the last time the president visited the u.n. general assembly. what's the same and what's changed, tom? >> well, what's changed for one thing is the fact that president obama is now much weaker than he was a year ago.
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when he went to the united nations last year, there were cheers. there were applause. delegates were taking pictures of him. his main message is we're going to re-engage with the united nations. it was an end to the so-called go it alone years of the bush administration. so he was really given a very warm welcome. and now he has been criticized over the last year as you know for having been naive perhaps in his faith in engagement. and this has been used against him by his republican critics. so he comes back to the united nations this year with a much more down-to-earth message. i need help on this issue. i need help on this issue. i need help on this issue. gwen: and when ahmadinejad shows up and says -- yeah. he said from ground zero, the terrorists didn't really exist or whatever it was he said. people who are critics of the president who -- who advocated for engagement with iran get a little fodder, don't they? >> they sure do.
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the big suspense every year around the u.n. general assembly is what is ahmadinejad going to say this year in order to get a reaction? last year, he said -- made very thinly veiled anti-semitic comments asking why a small minority is able to dominate the world. and this year as you say, he came right out and said -- he claims that most people in america think that the u.s. government was behind the twin towers coming down. i don't know what poll results he was citing for that. but he just outdoes himself every year. and last year, the united states got up and walked out. this year the united states got up and walked out. so that -- that has obviously stayed the same. >> and what does this mean for the u.s. policy toward iran? what does it say about sanctions and what they have been able to do or not do in the last year since -- when obama was there last year? >> it's interesting, nancy. in the last year he laid out this vision of engagement with iran. and yet paradoxically, his big success, the u.s. big success the last 12 months has not been
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on that front of engagement. it's been on the opposite front. on increasing pressure on iran. the united states has -- is able -- has been able to get very tough sanctions imposed on iran first by the united nations in july. and also by the european union. by individual governments like japan. and as a result, the sanctions regime on iran is really starting to have some effect. thls just the opposite of what we -- this is just the opposite of what we would have been thinking a year ago when the talk was on engaging iran. that produced nothing. the sanctions have produced quite a bit of pressure. >> do the remarks like he made in this -- at this u.n. general assembly, do those have the unintended by minimum result of helping to solidify opposition to him? of stink the spine maybe -- of stiffening the spine of maybe some of our allies that we want to keep these sanctions in place and give them some, you know, muscle? >> more countries walked out this year than walked out last
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year so that might be measure of how much he has isolated himself. there is right now i think a much broad -- much broader support in the world for being tough on iran. and the other factor that has changed is that ahmadinejad himself is much more isolated at home. really in a very politically weakened position. he is now facing opposition not just from the green movement, the democrats and the rormse. he's facing a lot of opposition from his own fellow hard-liners. who think that he has usurped a lot of power. so he is in a very weak position politically. in fact, this is one of the theories about why he comes out with these outrageous, provocative bizarre statements at the general assembly. because it detracts from the political problems that he's facing at home. >> didn't the president actually give -- president obama, didn't he actually give an interview today to push back on some of the things that ahmadinejad was saying? >> that's right. he gave an view to the bbc
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persian service in which he came out and said how offensive these comments were, particularly being made in new york at such a short distance from the twin towers. and it's really kind of bizarre that ahmadinejad would make these comments now, nine years after these you toers came down -- these towers came down. there is a lot of support for conspiracy theories in the arab and muslim world. and this may have been an effort on his part to sort of -- to fan some of that resentment against the united states in the arab and muslim world. gwen: ok. thank you, tom. the president's back now from the general assembly. but there was one last distraction for the administration this week. remember, when the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the defense secretary said a few weeks ago, they would support repealing the policy that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military? well, apparently no one told the senate. this week, the issue warped into a fight over parliamentary and procedural politics. republican senator susan
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collins who actually favors the repeal ended up being the deciding vote against it. >> i think we should welcome the service of these individuals who are willing and capable of serving their country. but i cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude republican amendments. that too is not fair. gwen: which means what, exactly, nancy? when she's talking about a system that would preclude this, what's she talking about? >> on the face of it it appears to be a debate about don't ask-don't tell. but this is really posturing. and in anticipation of the upcoming elections. so the republicans bringing -- adding this, the amendment, adding don't ask-don't tell repeal, was a way for them to galvanize their base in the face of tea party sentiment
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growing in their -- within their party. the way to say look, we're here to stop these liberal democrats from forcing don't ask-don't tell on us. gwen: this was something that people had said they were before and which seemed like a slam dunk not long ago. why not bring it up? why not attach it to a defense bill? >> for the democrats? gwen: yeah. >> for the democrats, they have a problem in that -- it was sort of the lady gaga effect. they want to show that they're going to do something about don't ask-don't tell. but yet are afraid to do it in the face of the elections. this is a way to appear to be doing something, knowing full well national vote wasn't going to go through. -- full well the vote wasn't going to go through. the chairman has been in favor of it but the chiefs are not. and they're looking at the effects that a repeal could have. so there are all these moving parts going on. and i think people are looking for something to galvanize, to get their base around to get them to the polls in november. and for a lot of people, don't
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ask-don't tell is not about the military. but it's an emotional, moral issue. and i think it's a way to try to get people to the polls. >> isn't there a sense within the military that this is going to happen eventually? >> yes. and in fact, that was the reason for the study that the secretary commissioned earlier this year. it's supposed to be completed december 1. the idea was if this repeal happens, how will it affect the military and how will the military implement it? what's interesting in this debate is that went from being something that the military was doing and in anticipation of congress, congress saying we need to see what the military says first. it's a chicken and egg argument of what came first so used as a way to buy time on this issue. >> so what happens now with don't ask-don't tell? it did have a sense of inevitability that it would be repealed? but if the senate doesn't want to do it, and it seems like the senate is only going to get more republican after the elections, where does it all end? gwen: and what happens to the underlying bill? there's actually an appropriations bill, the funding for the military.
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>> and just to make a distinction, the appropriations bill is the one that actually puts the money in the coffers of the defense department. the authorization bill authorizes congress to do it. the most -- usually what's happened is they take out the military pay raise and this year under 2%. and done it as a separate bill down the road. the anticipation is that proponents of repealing don't ask-don't tell will bring this up again in the lame duck session. because of concerns that republicans will have more seats and this will be less likely to pass. so -- >> would it pass in lame duck session more than it does now? >> it's unclear. it depends on how the election comes out in november. how people feel, how confident people feel after that election in terms of their standing within their home districts. >> but there probably is also some sense that after this review comes out, the results of this review or survey, people like senator collins who -- and others who may just want to wait for this process to play out. might that change the lineup of
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votes after that review comes out? >> it certainly could. and the expectation is that that survey will find that the military by and large supports repealing the act. but in the meantime, you have top combatant commanders saying they're against repealing the act. we just heard from general amos today who is the nominee to be marine corps commandant to say i'm not for the repeal. so there's a friction that i think some people feel needs to be resolved before the repeal happens. the real question becomes is what is the danger in sort of dragging out the don't ask-don't tell repeal? what effect does it have on soldiers? it used to be the military would make social changes if you will in its ranks with assertively. this protracted debate over it leaves some wondering, what effect will this have on soldiers? will they take the message that their civilian leadership isn't raerl behind this repeal -- isn't really behind this repeal? and will they lash out against gay service members?
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gwen: i'm so glad we cleared all of this up. not at all. for more clarity keep up with daily developments and find additional "washington week" reporting, blogs and our webcast at and we'll see you next week on "washington week." good night. >> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> what if you could just be you? what if you had your last bad date? what if she's out there? what if he's out there? what if you could be loved for exactly who you are?
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